8 June 2014
Text: Acts 2:1-21 (Gen 11:1-9, John 14:23-31)
In the name of + Jesus. Amen.
We humans were created in the image and likeness of God. And we, along with all of God’s creation, were good, perfect, and exactly according to our Creator’s plan and handiwork. Like Him, we have a mind. Like Him, we have the ability to reason. Like Him, we have a tendency toward the creative.
And the Lord God put our perfect ancestors in a perfect garden, and all was perfectly good.
But, with our minds, we chose to rebel. With our reason, we chose to circumvent His Word. With our creativity, we found a clever way to seemingly swap places between creature and Creator, and it all went terribly wrong.
Through sin, we brought misery and suffering, bitterness and strife, decay and death. We broke communion with God and we estranged ourselves from the rest of His once-perfect creation that we ruined.
And even when our ancestors were given a second chance after the flood, when the Lord God commanded us to spread around the world to repopulate it for the good of all creation, instead with our minds, we chose to rebel. With our reason, we chose to circumvent His Word. With our creativity, we found a clever way to seemingly swap places between creature and Creator, and it all went terribly wrong.
Our ancestors refused to scatter, having discovered a technological innovation called “bricks.” Our forefathers resolved to build a skyscraper to heaven, seeking to ride technology up past the place where the Creator dwells.
“So the Lord dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city. Therefore its name was called Babel, because the Lord confused the language of all the earth. And from there the Lord dispersed them over the face of all the earth.”
Thus the curse of Babel. Thus the divisions between man. Thus the misuse of technology that made our lives worse, not better. The confusion of languages has brought on war between nations, violence between ethnic groups, hatreds between countrymen, friction between neighbors, and even generational hatred.
We are suspicious of those who don’t speak like we do, look like we do, share our customs, culture, and use of words. Not only is our communion with God broken, but our communion with man is in tatters. Moreover, technology, while in fact making our lives better in many ways –has also been used to incinerate human beings by the thousands, to destroy children in the womb, to promote pornography and hatred and misinformation and false doctrine. Technology is used by totalitarian governments to control and oppress. And today, many seek to use technology to manipulate the genetic building blocks of human life. And this too will all go terribly wrong.
The problem of war and hatred and rebellion against God can’t be fixed by Google Translate or by learning one another’s languages. They can’t be fixed by more technology. The problem is sin, and sin requires atonement. Sin requires forgiveness and salvation. Sin requires a Savior, and that, dear friends, is what God gave us: our Lord Jesus Christ, the very Word of God, by whom all things were made. His atonement at the cross has paid for the sins of Adam and Eve, of the world before the flood, of the builders of Babel and of the nuclear bomb, of our own rebellion against God, our own excuses and reasons and justifications to sin, our own enthrallment with technology instead of our submission to God.
The Lord Jesus came into the world to save the world. And this is good news indeed. But now has come the time to spread this good news. The apostles were ordained into the preaching office and told to make disciples, baptizing and teaching, to be His witnesses to the very ends of the earth.
But how is a witness to testify when he can’t speak the language of the hearer? How can the confused babble of many tongues be overcome so that the world can hear this Gospel it so desperately needs?
This is what Pentecost is all about, dear friends. The Lord didn’t train these first preachers of the resurrection of Jesus to speak Parthian and Mede, Elamite, and the various dialects spoken by the residents of Mesopotamia. He did not empower them through technology. Instead, He sent His Holy Spirit to them and miraculously gave them the gift to speak in foreign languages, speaking in “other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.” And in the midst of the babble of languages in Jerusalem, “each one” of these foreigners “was hearing them speak in his own language.”
The confusion of tongues yielded to commonality of language. The sin of worshiping a false god was healed and forgiven by the grace of the True God. The idolatry of the stone tower was defeated by the atonement of the wooden cross. The wages of sin were overcome by the gift of God.
And by this miracle, the good news, the Gospel, went into the world, far and wide. The Church’s proclamation spread like fire, even as tongues of flames appeared to rest on these first witnesses and proclaimers of Jesus in Jerusalem. And as the good news spread, churches were established among every tribe and tongue, and the Word of God proclaimed in languages across the globe – even in languages yet to be born, such as our own English language.
And while today ethnic strife and war continues to plague our existence, consume our old sinful Adam, and threaten our decaying and fallen world, the new Adam takes joy in the saving Gospel that transcends space, time, ethnicity, and even language itself. The Church, God’s new creation, by the very work of this same Holy Spirit, knows no boundaries, calls no language its own, includes people of every ethnicity, and excludes no race nor tribe nor tongue.
And with the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, the Lord’s promise has been fulfilled: “The Holy Spirit… will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.”
For this is what our Lord Jesus brings us, overcoming sin and division and guilt, defeating death and the devil, and calling us back to communion with God and with men by means of the Holy Spirit: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, Pentecost is truly a feast of victory, a triumph over sin and its consequences, a celebration of the true diversity of the one true faith – not the phony politically-correct “diversity” of the world, but true unity of faith and life that transcends tribe and tongue and space and time. For in the events of Pentecost, we see the Son’s redemption being proclaimed by the work of the Holy Spirit, to the glory of God the Father.
For it is our crucified Lord who, with His mind, gladly obeyed; with His reason, chose to fulfill His Word; with His creativity, found a clever way to swap places between sinful creature and sinless Creator, a happy exchange of our sinfulness for His righteousness.
And in the coming of the Holy Spirit, it all went terribly right. Our Lord repeats it to us again, dear friends, in every language and to Christians in every metropolis and settlement on the globe: “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you.”
Peace be with you! Amen.
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